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The Résumé Rx

How To Become A Travel Nurse: Complete Guide (+Salary Tips)

Amanda Guarniere

So, if you have found yourself reading this blog post, then you must be considering a career as a travel nurse. Congratulations on taking the first step!

For starters, having a job as a travel nurse will enable you to see the country you’re in or different countries. And who doesn’t love traveling, right?

Being able to do the job you love plus traveling the globe – this may sound like a dream, but as with any job, you will find pros and cons, and travel nursing is no different. 

In this blog, we’ll go through the ins and outs of working as a travel nurse, the pros and cons, tips on how to become one, and how to increase your earning potential.

Ready to dive in? Then, keep reading.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • What is a travel nurse, and what’s it like working as one?
  • Travel nurse salary
  • Pros and cons of being a travel nurse
  • Is being a travel nurse right for you?
  • How to become a travel nurse?
  • How long does it take to become a travel nurse?
  • Travel Nurse Schooling, Requirements, Certifications & Credentials
  • How To Find A Job As A Travel Nurse
  • Travel Nurse Agencies
  • How To Make More Money As A Travel Nurse
  • Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS A TRAVEL NURSE, AND WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING AS ONE?

Travel nurses are registered nurses from various clinical backgrounds. They work for independent staffing agencies that travel around the country or around the globe. 

Travel nurses are assigned to different care areas on a temporary basis usually to fill in short-term employment gaps.

How did travel nursing begin? Well, it started when a nationwide shortage of nurses was experienced. Because of this, most hospitals, clinics, and healthcare centers were lacking nurses to care for their patients. 

To solve the lack of nurses, employers offered higher pay, housing, and travel expenses to registered nurses who would be willing to travel and cover the position for a specified time period.

Aside from being able to travel to different states in the U.S., travel nurses were also able to work abroad. The adventure, excitement, new opportunities, and higher pay are some of the many reasons why the travel nursing industry is booming. 

This type of working arrangement is essential for the healthcare industry because travel nurses help bridge the gap between the supply and demand in the healthcare industry.

PROS & CONS OF BEING A TRAVEL NURSE

Like with any job, there are definitely pros and cons to being a travel nurse. In order to know if this is the right career for you, we highly encourage you to weigh the pros and cons. This will help you decide if it’s worth pursuing.

PROS OF BEING A TRAVEL NURSE

1. You get to discover new places

If you’re a fan of adventure, love traveling, love seeing new sights and meeting new people, then this is definitely a top pro when it comes to working as a travel nurse. 

From the natural beauty of the Mediterranean to the romantic views in Paris or the thrills of Las Vegas, there are no limits to where travel nursing can take you. Aside from traveling around the United States, there are also opportunities to work abroad. 

With travel comes new experiences, unfamiliar places, and new people to meet. So, if this sounds like a dream career for you, keep reading for more pros of being a travel nurse.

2. You get to experience more freedom and flexibility

As compared to working a full-time job at a hospital, being a travel nurse gives you more freedom and flexibility. You get to choose when and where you want to work. Additionally, if the agency permits, you are able to take time off in between to recharge, rest, and spend time with your friends and family.

3. More professional growth

Working in different clinics, hospitals, and facilities in different states will force you to broaden your skill set. You’ll be able to handle different cases and learn new techniques. 

Aside from expanding your professional experience, you get to enjoy new experiences in each new state you travel to. If you’re up for new adventures and new challenges, then this is another great benefit of being a travel nurse.

4. You’ll have job security

Although your contract would differ depending on each agency you work with, there is never a lack of places looking for nurses and healthcare professionals. There will always be another assignment waiting once your current one ends because medical centers are always in need of nurses and healthcare professionals.

5. Meet new friends

When you travel as much as travel nurses, you’ll be forced to meet new people. This means new friends. Traveling is a great way to meet new people you would otherwise never have met. Additionally, when you meet new people and establish new friendships along your journey, it makes the ride that much more fulfilling.

6. Make more money

As compared to nurses working full-time in hospitals or clinics, travel nurses have higher pay rates. Additionally, most agencies also offer shift differentials, housing allowances, travel allowances, and health insurance starting on the first day of their assignment. 

7. Flexibility when it comes to your schedule

Another benefit of being a travel nurse is the opportunity to control and choose your own schedule. Although they don’t have paid time off, being able to choose your schedule is a great perk. 

As a travel nurse, you won’t have to worry about having to get your leaves approved. You get to choose when you want to take some time off from work to spend time with family and friends.

8. You can dip your toes before you dive all in

When you travel around the country, you’ll get to see how it feels like to live in different states. This is a great opportunity to help you decide where you’ll eventually want to settle down. This is another great advantage of being a travel nurse.

CONS OF BEING A TRAVEL NURSE

Like with every career, there’s always pros and cons to each one. Being a travel nurse is no exception. Here are some of the disadvantages of being a travel nurse.

1. Change is inevitable. You will always find yourself in an unfamiliar environment.

As a travel nurse, you will keep changing locations which means you need to get comfy with the unfamiliar. You won’t have a stable environment or a routine schedule. Some people thrive in spontaneity but others prefer stability and routine. If you are the latter, then this may not be the best career for you.

2. You will always be the new person in the city.

It comes without saying that because you’ll be traveling so often, you’ll always be new to the city. Being new in an unfamiliar place can be exciting for some, but stressful for others. However, if you are great at making new friends quickly, then this won’t be a problem for you.

3. Varying pay rates

Each agency will have different pay rates. Each contract will also have different pay rates. Each contract that you undertake with an institution will have varying pay rates. Because of this, you won’t have a steady income throughout the year as compared to being a nurse full-time in a clinic or hospital.

4. License issues

When you travel to each state you’ll be required to hold an active license for each place you work in. This can be challenging and time consuming. One of the biggest disadvantages of being a travel nurse is having to have multiple licenses in each state. However, if you have a compact nurse license, this can make the process a lot easier.

5. Your contract can be canceled.

Not everything is set in stone even though you have a contract with your agency. Sometimes things may not be working out and your agency will have to cancel your contract before it ends. This leaves you without a job and scrambling to find another. 

Now that we’ve gone through the pros and cons of being a travel nurse, how will you know if it’s the right path for you? Keep reading to learn more!

IS BEING A TRAVEL NURSE RIGHT FOR YOU?

Travel nursing isn’t for everyone. But contrary to popular belief, it’s also not only for the young and single. There are many travel nurses with spouses and children. It really depends on your own unique situation and preferences. 

Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly in order to find out if travel nursing is for you.

  1. Do you enjoy traveling?
  2. How do you feel about constant change and living in an unknown place?
  3. Do you have enough experience (at least 1 year) as a nurse?
  4. Do you consider yourself independent?
  5. Are you able to adapt to changes quickly?
  6. Are you comfortable with meeting new people every so often?
  7. Do you like stability? Or are you comfortable with constant changes?

If you’re finally convinced that being a travel nurse is definitely for you, then read on to find out the steps to becoming one.

HOW TO BECOME A TRAVEL NURSE

Steps to Becoming a Travel Nurse

The minimum travel nurse requirement is a registered nurse (RN) license, which requires at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Additionally, agencies prefer nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing. 

Here are the steps to becoming a travel nurse.

1. Earn a BSN Degree.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing or BSN degree takes at least four years. This is the minimum requirement to become a travel nurse.  

What about students with a bachelor’s degree in a different field? Students with a bachelor’s in a field other than nursing can usually transfer some credits towards an accelerated BSN.

2. Pass the NCLEX Exam.

After getting your bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Exam for RNs (NCLEX-RN) to earn an RN license.

3. Obtain RN Licensure.

Some states participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact, meaning that a nursing license earned in one state is valid in others. Since you’ll be traveling to different states, you may need to apply for licensure in multiple states.

4. Gain Nursing Experience.

Most travel nurses need RN experience, a minimum of one year. It’s best to have at least this minimum number of years before becoming a travel nurse because it gives you more experience to work with.

5. Find a Travel Nurse Staffing Agency for Employment.

Travel nurse staffing agencies place travel nurses in positions. Most schools will help connect graduates with travel nurse staffing agencies. You can also do your own research online.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A TRAVEL NURSE?

The education requirements for travel nurse positions include 2 to 4 years of education.

TRAVEL NURSE SCHOOLING, REQUIREMENTS, CERTIFICATIONS & CREDENTIALS

Now, let’s get into the details of the requirements you’ll be needing in order to apply as a travel nurse. 

Educational requirements for a travel nurse

As mentioned earlier, those interested in the specialty of travel nursing should first pursue a nursing degree through a two or four-year university. 

After completion of an accredited nursing program, successful completion of the NCLEX-RN is required for licensure.

After passing the licensure exam, you’ll need at least 1 year working experience. Additionally, international travel nurses will be required to speak the language of the country they will be stationed in. Communication is an important skill to achieve effective healthcare delivery.

Characteristics of a Travel Nurse

A travel nurse should have the following characteristics to excel in the role:

  • Loves experiencing new cities, towns, and organizations. You’ll be traveling a lot and to foreign places, it’s much better if you enjoy what you’re doing. 
  • Enjoys freedom. If you love having control over your time and schedule, then this is a great career for you. Travel nurses choose when and where they work, and choose their duration of employment
  • Thrives on challenges. Moving to different states during each contract brings up different challenges. If you see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, then this is for you.
  • Has supportive friends or families. Since you’ll be traveling for long periods each time, it’s essential that you have a good support system to lean on.

HOW TO FIND A JOB AS A TRAVEL NURSE

Ready to get started? Here are the steps to follow to start finding your dream job as a travel nurse.

1. Do your research

Like any other job, it’s essential to do your due diligence. Research which specialties are in high demand. Also, make sure to do your research on which agencies to work for and if they fit what you’re looking for. 

2. Update your resume

It’s important to update your nursing resume to highlight your clinical skills. You may also want to include your training, qualifications and personal qualities and achievements. 

3. Look for travel nursing positions online

After updating your resume, use the internet to your advantage. With the age of digital advancement, everything is now online. There are several job sites specifically for travel nurses. Spend some time researching them online and you’ll be amazed at the vast number of options out there.

4. Choose the right travel nurse company for you

Keep in mind that while doing your research, you’ll want to find agencies with good reputations. Ask around and do your due diligence.

5. Engage in networking opportunities 

Aside from researching online, you can also go old school and attend networking opportunities for nurses. Ask your colleagues if they know of any upcoming events. Attending nursing conferences is a great way to grow your network and meet new people.

6. Get packing!

When you’ve finally found your match, now the fun really begins. Your recruitment team will help you get ready for your new assignment. Take note that your recruitment team should help you when it comes to licensing and other paperwork, and prepping for your move. 

To help you get started, here are a few travel nurse agencies you can check out.

TRAVEL NURSE AGENCIES

HOW TO MAKE MORE MONEY AS A TRAVEL NURSE

While travel nursing is already a high paying career, it’s always good to keep expanding. Here are a few ways to make more money as a travel nurse.

  • Pick up extra shifts
  • Refer a traveler
  • Check with your agency for a sign-on bonus
  • Work during the holidays
  • Refer a traveler
  • Become more specialized and grow your skills

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. How long does it take to become a traveling nurse?

It can take two to four years for full-time students to earn an ADN or BSN. 

2. What do you need to be a travel nurse?

To become a Traveling Nurse, either an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is required. Additionally, it’s also required to become licensed. This can be done by passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

3. Do travel nurses make a lot of money? 

In general, travel nurses have the opportunity to make more money than a staff nurse for two main reasons: high need means higher pay and additional monetary incentives.

4. How much money do you make being a travel nurse?

Travel nurses make an average of $98,031 per year, or $47 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter. 

5. How hard is it to become a travel nurse?

Travel nursing can be an intimidating subject to a newcomer. Travel nursing can be an intimidating subject to a newcomer. But when you break it down, it’s not as difficult as it seems.

6. Is being a travel nurse worth it?

With an endless number of pros and very few cons, a travel nursing career equates to great pay and limitless opportunities! So, I’d say, definitely yes!

7. Do travel nurses make more than RNs? Do travel nurses get paid more than nurses?

The average annual salary for a travel nurse is $108,070 in 2022, according to Indeed.com. That is significantly higher than the average mean salary for staff nurses, $75,330 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

8. What is the highest paid travel nurse?

 ICU Travel Nurse. ICU nurses are the most in-demand and highest-paid travel nurse specialty for obvious reasons. 

9. Do travel nurses make over 100k?

Yes. The average annual salary for a travel nurse is $108,070 in 2022, according to Indeed.com. 

9. Why is travel nurse pay so high?

Travel nursing pays more because travel nursing recruiters work with facilities such as hospitals and clinics that have a high demand for nurses and are willing to pay to reach adequate staffing levels.

If you’re ready to take the next step, The Resume RX is here to help! We’ll guide you in making your resume stand out to your potential employers. Ready to get started on your dream job? Click here!

 

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